What Is Medical Cannabis?


What is cannabis?

Cannabis is derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. It contains approximately 100 natural compounds called cannabinoids. There are two main cannabinoids used for medicinal purposes: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the psychoactive compound that creates the “high” associated with marijuana use, whereas CBD does not have psychoactive properties. Therefore, CBD does not create the “high” associated with THC. The levels of CBD and THC in medical cannabis differ depending on the strain of the plant.

What is medical cannabis?

The main difference between medical cannabis and recreational cannabis is the end goal — whether it is used for medicinal purposes or recreational purposes. Legality is often based on this specific difference.

What are the benefits of medical cannabis?

Potential benefits of medical cannabis include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Pain relief
  • Nausea relief
  • Reduced muscle spasms
  • Improved sleep
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Improved mood and overall quality of life

What are the potential side effects of medical cannabis?

Potential side effects of medical cannabis include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety, hallucinations or paranoia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Decreased reaction times
  • Impaired concentration or short-term memory loss
  • Negative drug interactions

Is medical cannabis legal?

The legality of medical cannabis is complicated. The use of cannabis is prohibited under U.S. federal law. However, as of March 2021, 36 states have legalized medical cannabis. Although it is legal in the majority of states, it is still not legal on the federal level. The rules vary by state, but use of medical cannabis generally must be approved by a licensed physician. Some states have made recreational use of cannabis legal as well.

How is it obtained?

The purchase of medical cannabis varies by state. Typically, a medical condition (that a specific state has approved for medical cannabis treatment) needs to be verified by a doctor. An ID card may be issued, and in some states, medical cannabis is purchased at a dispensary.

How is medical cannabis administered?

Medical cannabis can be administered in various ways:

  • Smoked
  • Eaten (e.g., a lollipop or brownie)
  • Inhaled through a vaporizer
  • Applied to the skin (oil, lotion, spray, or cream)
  • Taken orally in pill or liquid form

Each of these forms of administration differ in how they work in the body, how often they should be used for optimal relief, how they affect symptoms, how long it takes to experience effects, and any potential side effects. A health care provider should be consulted before using medical cannabis as a treatment.